Positive future for track cycling development
Exhilarating track cycle racing continued in full force on day one of the 2016 South African Omnium Championships at the Westbourne Oval on Saturday 2 April. Port Elizabeth lived up to its reputation of being “The Windy City” with strong winds throughout the day, which added to the challenge for most of the riders on the track.
The exciting Omnium format of racing incorporates the Olympic and Commonwealth Games track cycling disciplines – Scratch, Individual Pursuit, Elimination, Time Trial, Flying 250m and Points race. Each rider races in each discipline, with the maximum points for a win in each race being 40 points, then 38 for second, then 36 for third, and so on. In addition, the Points race is calculated slightly differently, with points being scored every 2000m, adding to the excitement of the competition and keeping everyone on their toes until the very end. Saturday’s first day saw riders tackle the Scratch, Individual Pursuit (IP) and the Flying 250m.
In the Elite Men’s race, David Maree (Team Telkom) currently leads after the three races with a total of 94 points, followed by teammates Reynard Butler (92) and Nolan Hoffman (88). Maree won the Scratch race, came second in the IP and 13th in the Flying 250m. The Elite Women’s race sees Charlene du Preez leading the way on 118 points, followed by Elfriede Wolfaardt and Maroesjka Matthee both on 110 points. Du Preez opened her tally with a second place in the Scratch race and first places in the IP and Flying 250m.
As the sharp end of the sport exudes professionalism in their colourful team kit and top-of-the-range equipment at the highest level of competition in the country, chasing points and Championship Titles, young riders from the townships watch and learn and aspire to become a big name in cycling with the correct training and guidance.
While the Westbourne Oval has provided much cycling entertainment over the course of the week and has proved worthy of hosting a National Championship event, Port Elizabeth in fact boasts three cycling tracks within 10 kilometres of each other. The beauty of this is that more and more cyclists are encouraged to utilise these tracks. Track cycling is growing not just in the province, but also across the country.
Cycling South Africa’s Transformation and Development Commission Director, Yster Xatasi, said: “I believe track cycling is giving development riders opportunities to be involved in cycling and to become top riders. It’s nice for them to compete with the well-known riders here. That way, they are going to improve their cycling.”
Xatasi has brought a team of four cyclists from the Siyanqoba Club in the New Brighton Township in the Eastern Cape with him. “The team I have brought is very excited to race. One of my riders in the under-16 category is doing very well, Luthando Meintjies,” he added.
Meintjies is 16-years-old and began cycling at the age of 13 when he was in grade seven. “Cycling in a good sport. It makes me not do the wrong things and I have made many, many friends in cycling. Cycling is my future. It makes me good,” said Meintjies.
Xatasi mentioned that often many of the riders cycle from the township to train on the Westbourne Oval and then cycle back home late in the evening. “What’s crazy is that there is a track in that area for them to train at, the Chevrolet Track. But it isn’t in great condition. There has been an unconfirmed amount of money to be allocated by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality for the maintenance and repair of the track. There has also been an offer by the Municipality to assist in the repair of the bicycles that are owned by Siyanqoba. With the repair of the bicycles and the track, these young riders will have brilliant opportunities to practice right where they live.”
Cycling SA Track Commission Director and Race Director, Gerhard Meyer, has been in charge of training and selecting these riders so that they have the opportunity to compete in the competitive environment. “I select some of the riders from Siyanqoba and they come to the track for the Tuesday and Thursday training sessions and I help them there. I’ve got about 15 development bikes that I work with. The riders come along and we train. I look at the talent that’s around and then I take them onto personal training and try to develop them from there.”
Meyer mentioned the incredible talent that he has witnessed from Meintjies. “He’s incredibly fast and developing into a brilliant rider at the moment. Hopefully we can push on with him to become one of our Junior Squad members next year when he becomes a Junior rider.”
“Another team rider, Thandile, used to be in the National squad. She’s come back to ride on the track again and I’m working with her to get her back on the right path.”
President of Eastern Cape Sports Confederation, Mr. Mkhululi Magada, explained that their mandate is to assist and monitor Federations to ensure that Transformation and Development is driven in the province. “It is our obligation to make sure that we assist the Federations in all aspects, particularly administration. We believe that for any Federation to achieve, they must have good governance.
“Development is important. We are busy with municipalities to develop all of the facilities that we have, formal and informal. We need to make sure that we utilise whatthat we have in the backyard in our communities. We don’t want youngsters to have to travel up to 12 kilometres before they can even participate.
“We are committed to assist Federations with development in national and international participation. An academy is situated in NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) with sports scientists and dieticians and once we have spotted a youngster with talent, we take them there so we can prepare them for the four-year sporting cycle so that they are able to produce medals for us. The way for the district, for the province and for the country to evaluate itself from the others is by the number of participants they can develop to gain medals. We want to make sure that we take these children at an early age and prepare them well so that they become a long-term investment for sport.”
The 2016 SA National Track, Para-cycling and Omnium Championships take place at the Westbourne Cycling Track in Port Elizabeth from Monday 28 March to Sunday 3 April, with the SA Track and Para-cycling Championships running from Monday 28 March to Friday 1 April and the SA Omnium Championships running from Saturday 2 to Sunday 3 April. For more information about the event, click here: http://www.cyclingsa.com/2016-sa-track-champs/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final race results from the full SA Omnium Championships will be shared with the final race wrap report.